Turtles' Final Moments Do They Pass With Eyes Open

Turtles’ Final Moments: Do They Pass With Eyes Open?

When a human dies, he or she closes their eyes before death. Or, he or she opens eyes during death. If you are just like us, you would definitely say “of course”! It makes sense. But a question always lingers in my mind whenever I see turtles, “Do turtles die with their eyes open?”

Many turtles die with their eyes wide open. That’s why people think that all turtles die with their eyes open. The truth is that most animals lack eyelids, and turtles are not an exception. However, it does not happen with all turtles. In simple words, turtles have a unique way of dying.

In this article, I’m going to explore – Do turtles die with their eyes open? It’s one of the most perplexing questions that ever popped up in our minds. I will try to cover all the facts associated with this mystery of turtles. So, let’s follow in the footsteps of this topic to gain insights.

Do Turtles Die With Their Eyes Open?

Yes, turtles do die with their eyes open. But it’s not a universal rule for all turtles. Some other reports state the following:

“When turtles die, their eyelids stay shut continuously all day long in most cases, and then eventually they detach and fall off the ground.”

This shows that some turtles die with their eyes open, and others die with their eyes closed. There is no fixed rule that states that there is one possibility – turtles die with their eyes open. I hope you do not get perplexed after reading this fact about turtles.

Why do turtles close their eyes when dying?

Turtles, like many animals, close their eyes when dying due to physiological changes. As their metabolic functions slow down, including respiration and circulation, they enter a state of lethargy. So, closing their eyes is a part of this natural process, akin to how humans close their eyes when entering a deep sleep or a state of unconsciousness.

It’s not a universal behavior, as different species and individuals exhibit variations. Factors such as environmental conditions, health status, and species-specific traits play roles in determining the closing or opening of eyes during the dying process. In addition to all these reasons, turtles also close their eyes for various reasons other than death.

Here are a few of them:

  • During sleep, turtles shut their eyes as they rest. This act provides them with a moment of repose.
  • Turtles close their eyes because this behavior serves as a protective measure against potential threats or disturbances. It also allows them to shield their eyes from external elements.
  • Additionally, turtles close their eyes during periods of relaxation, basking, or when they feel secure in their surroundings.

So, these eye-closing behaviors are essential aspects of their natural instincts, contributing to their overall well-being and survival in different situations.

How do turtles look when they die?

Turtles Pass With Eyes Open

According to turtle keepers and enthusiasts, when a turtle succumbs, both the upper and lower lids in each eye socket fold inward upon themselves. This outcome forms a tent-like structure around both eyeballs of the turtle. Following the detachment of lids from the cornea and sclera, their eye sockets become partially or totally empty spaces.

As these spaces fill with fluid, the entire eyeball gradually dissolves into nothingness. In simpler terms, once the lids seal over the eyes, there’s no way to see inside either eye. Unlike numerous mammals, reptiles have additional skin covering their heads. In case the creature’s metabolism markedly decelerates, the additional skin serves to safeguard their brains from overheating.

If a turtle’s brain temperature elevates excessively, this little creature can potentially undergo internal cooking. Due to their inability to blink for heat dissipation, turtles experience an accumulation of excess heat in the head region. It results in damage to the reptile’s nervous system and potential skin burns.

So, if your turtle displays unusual behavior one morning, it may indicate an issue that requires your attention. Try to follow your instincts to keep your turtle alive because if your turtle is sick, it doesn’t mean your turtle will die soon. It happens often when things don’t go in favor of turtles; they just need immediate professional help from a veterinarian.

What happens when a turtle dies?

As I have mentioned before, turtles look very different after death. Similarly, turtles smell very bad after dying. Once unconscious, a turtle’s body undergoes rapid decay. This is because bacteria proliferate more swiftly in warm water conditions.

Here is another general rule of thumb for dead turtles:

“The complete decomposition of a turtle typically spans 24 hours to three days. Not more than this! Throughout this period, the odor emanating from decomposing turtles can become intolerable. To prevent unpleasant odors, refrain from placing your deceased pet in direct sunlight or near windows. In these locations, the smell might be easily detected by passersby.”

Additionally, don’t forget to cleanse your hands thoroughly right after handling your dead turtle. You can also choose to use hand sanitizer.

Related article: My Turtle Keeps Swimming Against the Glass: Understanding Unusual Behavior

What is the best way to tell if a turtle is dead?

There are many best ways to tell if a turtle is dead or not. Try the following easy ways to find your answer:

  • Check for any signs of breathing. If the turtle is not breathing, it is likely dead. If the turtle is breathing, the chances are your turtle is hibernating. 
  • Body temperature is another way to check if the turtle is dead or simply hibernating. The body temperature of the turtle will be lower if it’s hibernating. After death, a turtle’s body temperature will gradually approach the ambient temperature of its surroundings. 
  • Additionally, the best way to find out if the turtle is dead or not is through a simple poke. Yes, poke your turtle. Not responded? Poke it again and again but gently. Still, no response? Believe that your turtle is dead.
  • Another way to check is – touch the feet of your turtle. If your turtle is alive, it will definitely move its feet. If not, try again a few times more. Even after trying many times, your turtle is not dragging its feet; it’s dead.
  • Cracked shell, blood, and dismemberment are the clear-cut signs of a dead turtle.
  • Last but not least, live turtles always try to retain muscle control. Contrarily, a dead turtle is completely limp. So, if you pick your turtle up, the head of the dead turtle will droop, and its legs will hang limply.

So, we have seen that there are many ways to tell if a turtle is dead or not. 

Important Note:

If the turtle is in a warm environment, its body temperature may remain relatively higher for some time. Conversely, in a cooler atmosphere, the body temperature will decrease.

What does it mean when your turtle’s eyes won’t open?

Many people think that a turtle is not opening its eyes, so the turtle is possibly dead. However, it’s not always the case. Another possibility when your turtle’s eyes won’t open is – the turtle has an eye ailment.

Eye infections and problems are very common in turtles, which forces them to close their eyes. For example, aquatic turtles and box turtles mostly close their eyes due to ear abscesses. Here are a few signs of eye ailment in turtles:

  • Runny eye
  • Constant rubbing of the eye
  • Cloudiness in one or both eyes of your turtle
  • Swollen eyelids
  • Excessive discharge
  • Eyes are swollen shut
  • Not being able to eat something

So, if your turtles are unable to open their eyes, make sure they have comfortable bedding and plenty of water available. Also, include vitamin A supplements and antibiotics in their diet.


Will a dead turtle sink or float?

Dead turtles sink in the water when they’re dying, dead, or about to die. Here is another thing to consider – after some time, gases start accumulating all over the bodies of the dead turtles. The turtle starts to rot and floats in the water.

Do turtles die naturally?

Yes, turtles die naturally. However, it doesn’t mean all of them die naturally. Mostly, turtles die due to injury and illness. Unlike birds and animals, turtles are slow agers.


So, our topic, “Do turtles die with their eyes open?” comes to an end. I have tried to clear it enough that “turtles die with their eyes open sometimes.” However, being an honest writer, I must make it clear that it’s not always the case. Sometimes, their eyes sink (sunken eyes are a clear indication that turtles will be no more in this world) inside when they are about to die or already died.

The hollowness in their eyes clearly defines that this turtle will leave us soon. And you know what’s the primary reason that confuses many turtle keepers about their death? It’s  “brumation”. During this period, they stop eating and become less responsive. This makes them look like dead bodies.

I wish no one’s turtle left them due to any injury or ailment. It’s a painful process to see our best friends and pets dying in front of our eyes.